No sign of N. Korea's seriousness on dialogue, U.S. officials say

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 (Yonhap) -- The Obama administration puts a "significant priority" on the North Korean nuclear problem and the communist nation has not shown any signs that it is serious about denuclearization talks, top U.S. officials said Friday.

Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said Pyongyang is trying to "have its cake and eat it, too."

The communist nation appears to be seeking economic support from the West but it also wants to be allowed to retain its nuclear weapons program, he pointed out.

"That's not going to happen," Russel said in a video conference with reporters here from New York, together with Evan Medeiros, senior director for Asian affairs at the White House National Security Council (NSC). The two are accompanying President Barack Obama at the 68th regular session of the U.N. General Assembly.

Russel said the threat posed by North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is "significant priority and a major component of U.S. policy efforts."

He underscored Washington's unswerving goal of "complete, verifiable, peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which for practical purposes means of North Korea."

"Negotiations must be to achieve the goal that I've described," Russel said. "There's no interest in talks for talks' sake."

His comments are in line with Washington's tepid response to Pyongyang's recent dialogue offer backed by Beijing.

The U.S. has urged the North to first take meaningful steps towards denuclearization.

Russel said the North Koreans can be under no illusions about what the international community expects them to do, citing international obligations and commitments including the 2005 Joint Statement. Under the deal with the U.S., South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, the North agreed to abandon all nuclear weapons in return for political and economic incentives.

Medeiros echoed Russel's view on North Korea.

"We've seen no indication that North Korea is serious about resuming talks," he said.

He said the U.S. will never accept North Korea as a nuclear state.

On Washington's strategy on Asia, he said Obama's commitment to rebalancing toward the region is "strong and enduring," adding, "The rebalancing is alive and well."

Obama spent much of his U.N. speech earlier this week on the Middle East. He made no mention of Asia, let alone North Korea.

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